Distinctive animation enhances a portrait of generational misery and mental illness in Rocks in My Pockets, Latvian writer/director/animator Signe Baumane’s autobiographical saga about the link between her own psychological problems and those of five women in her family.
Baumane employs a Bill Plimpton–inspired visual style marked by two-dimensional figures and objects set in motion to create the impression of a vivid storybook come to life. In voiceover, she recounts the travails of her many relatives who were forced to contend with long stays in mental hospitals and countless prescriptions for pills, all in an effort to stave off urges to kill themselves via drowning, hanging, or jumping off rooftops.
Candidly discussing these struggles — which seem to have been inherited from prior generations — the filmmaker creates a swirling, semi-hallucinatory panorama of emotional distress, where fantasies and realities blur, and in which familial and social expectations repeatedly drive women to forgo their own aspirations and assume traditional roles that, time and again, lead only to unhappiness and suicidal thoughts and actions.
With an insightfulness born from firsthand experience, Rocks in My Pockets posits depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia as conditions that, though potentially lethal, remain manageable, if only through persistent battle.